Stump Cross Caverns

Stump Cross Caverns

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Stump Cross Caverns is a limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 cave system between Wharfedale
Wharfedale
Wharfedale is one of the Yorkshire Dales in England. It is the valley of the River Wharfe. Towns and villages in Wharfedale include Buckden, Kettlewell, Conistone, Grassington, Hebden, Ilkley, Burley-in-Wharfedale, Otley, Pool-in-Wharfedale, Arthington, Collingham, and Wetherby...

 and Nidderdale
Nidderdale
Nidderdale is one of the Yorkshire Dales in North Yorkshire, England. It is the upper valley of the River Nidd, which flows south through the dale, forming several reservoirs including the Gouthwaite Reservoir, before turning east and eventually joining the River Ouse.The only town in the dale is...

 in North Yorkshire
North Yorkshire
North Yorkshire is a non-metropolitan or shire county located in the Yorkshire and the Humber region of England, and a ceremonial county primarily in that region but partly in North East England. Created in 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972 it covers an area of , making it the largest...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

.

Geography


The caverns at Stump Cross are located beneath Greenhow
Greenhow
Greenhow is a village in North Yorkshire, England, often referred to as Greenhow Hill.The place name how is derived from the Old Norse word haugr meaning a hill and a mound....

 hill, 1275 metres above sea level. Their name was taken from Stump Cross, which in ancient times marked the limit of Knaresborough Forest. The area above the caves consists largely of moorland, the nearest towns being Pateley Bridge
Pateley Bridge
Pateley Bridge is a small market town in Nidderdale in the Borough of Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England, on the River Nidd.It has the oldest sweet shop in England and is the home of the Nidderdale Museum....

 and Grassington
Grassington
Grassington is a market town and civil parish in the Craven district of North Yorkshire, England.The town is situated in Wharfedale around from Bolton Abbey and is surrounded by limestone scenery...

. One mile of the caves have been open to the public for many years, although the entire system is much more extensive than the show caves, extending more than 4 miles (6 km). It has not yet been fully explored.

The system is located in a region of limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 extending from Wharfedale
Wharfedale
Wharfedale is one of the Yorkshire Dales in England. It is the valley of the River Wharfe. Towns and villages in Wharfedale include Buckden, Kettlewell, Conistone, Grassington, Hebden, Ilkley, Burley-in-Wharfedale, Otley, Pool-in-Wharfedale, Arthington, Collingham, and Wetherby...

 to Greenhow and the Craven Fault
Craven Fault
The Craven Fault is the name applied by geologists to the group of crustal faults in the Pennines that form the south edge of the Askrigg Block. It is evident at the surface in the contrast of limestone with millstone grit. It is coincident with the south edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park...

. Lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

 has been mined in the region since the era of the Roman empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

.

History


The caves are thought to have been formed around 500000 years ago, although the process by which they were created began during a much earlier period in which the region was covered by ocean. They were discovered in January 1860 by William and Mark Newbould, who were amongst a group of miners prospecting for lead veins in the Yorkshire Dales. Some sources have given the date of their discovery as 1858. By 1867 1100 yards of the caves had been explored.

In 1922 the caves were explored more thoroughly by Christoper Long, a student at Caius College, Cambridge. His discoveries included stalactites in a range of colours, suggesting that they were impregnated with iron and lead. Long claimed that he had also discovered an underground lake, but is said to have sealed its entrance when the caves' owners refused to allow him a share of the revenue generated by tourism to the site.

The caverns were sold to potholer Septimus Wray in 1926 for £400, remaining in his family until 2003. In 1963 Geoffrey Workman spent 105 days in the caves, a world record, as part of a study on the effects of isolation on the body. Stump Cross developed into a tourist destination in the decades that followed, gaining an information centre, gift shop and a two-bedroomed cottage for the owners.

The caves gained Site of Special Scientific Interest
Site of Special Scientific Interest
A Site of Special Scientific Interest is a conservation designation denoting a protected area in the United Kingdom. SSSIs are the basic building block of site-based nature conservation legislation and most other legal nature/geological conservation designations in Great Britain are based upon...

 designation, and the Reindeer Cave was opened to the public in 2000, forty-five years after it was first discovered. In 2001 the caves were affected by the cleanup of nearby farms during the foot-and-mouth crisis. By 2003 over 60000 people visited the caves every year. In the same year they were put on the market by then-owner Gordon Hanley, a descendent of Wray, for £675,000.

Ownership of the site passed to the Bowerman family, who also part-own the Richmond Brewery Company, which in 2008 released an ale named after Stump Cross.

Fossils


Several fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

s have been discovered in the Stump Cross system. The initial discoverers of the caves found four near-complete reindeer
Reindeer
The reindeer , also known as the caribou in North America, is a deer from the Arctic and Subarctic, including both resident and migratory populations. While overall widespread and numerous, some of its subspecies are rare and one has already gone extinct.Reindeer vary considerably in color and size...

 fossils and a smaller skeleton believed to be that of an unborn reindeer. These have since been privately restored. Christoper Long's 1922 exploration reveald more prehistoric reindeer bones, and also those of wolverine
Wolverine
The wolverine, pronounced , Gulo gulo , also referred to as glutton, carcajou, skunk bear, or quickhatch, is the largest land-dwelling species of the family Mustelidae . It is a stocky and muscular carnivore, more closely resembling a small bear than other mustelids...

s. The wolverine bones are now on display at the site's visitor centre. Bison
Bison
Members of the genus Bison are large, even-toed ungulates within the subfamily Bovinae. Two extant and four extinct species are recognized...

remains have also been found.

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